Rick's Reviews > Churchill

Churchill by Paul  Johnson
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's review
Dec 28, 2009

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bookshelves: non-fiction

Johnson, the conservative historian, has written a brief but entertaining and authoritative biography of the great British politician (and writer, painter, and builder, though only the first of those three sidelines challenged his political prowess). The author also has the advantage of living during Churchill’s finest era—he was 12 when Churchill became prime minister in the spring of 1940—and having met and interviewed him during his elder statesmen period. These latter two facts, coupled with Johnson’s own skills and knowledge as an historian, make for a better than usual short biography. He is not at the mercy of other secondary accounts but has resource to his own memories and research. The result is a lively, opinionated, and at times provocative work. Johnson’s Churchill works as a good starting place in learning about one of the small handful of 20th Century essential lives or, alternately, if you’re familiar with Churchill’s life and work, a good place to revisit your understanding of him. Charming, brilliant, cantankerous, witty, and prodigiously productive, Churchill was a servant of empire and democracy, a proponent of liberal and conservative values in his domestic agenda, and a student, maker, and writer of history. In his epilogue, perhaps indicating that the book’s first audience is younger people, secondary and college students, Johnson lists five lessons to be gleaned from Churchill’s life: 1) aim high; 2) work hard; 3) persevere over failures and setbacks; 4) don’t be distracted by grudges or hatred; 5) live with joy (seek it and share it). Not a bad list, that. BTW: this if my first book read by way of a Kindle and I quite enjoyed the experience and am quite glad to have this book without it taking up shelf space. A nice way to keep those enjoyable books that when space becomes an issue, say after your library tops four digits, you don’t have to orphan.

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